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Cape Breton fiddle


Banzai

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Banzai, I don't have Cranford's Lighthouse collection but there are a few of his tunes in Jerry Holland's collections. They're nice enough but his stuff doesn't seem to have penetrated the CB repertoire as much as some of the other tunesmiths (Jerry, or Dan R. MacDonald for example). I think he has some examples in abc on his website (cranfordpub.com) if you want to take a look. BTW, I met Paul Cranford last Summer at a ceilidh we attended. He seems like a really nice guy. I've e-mailed him via the contact on his website a couple times to ask about various collections, and I think he'd probably be happy to answer any questions you have.

Scratchy, first publication of the tune in Bremner's collection agrees with what I've read. JS Skinner noted this tune was also called The Corn Bunting, and The Blue Hill (or The Dark Blue Hill). He wrote on his manuscript the following:

"'Note to Tullochgorum. This tune is of great antiquity & this is borne out by Miss Montgomerys request that the Rev. John Skinner should write words to the ancient 'Reel of Tullochgorum - it is known to a few lovers of the strathspey as 'The corn bunting' (inserted) and 'Jockie's fou and Jennie's fain'..."-Steve

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This is a great resource, thanks for posting! There are some great tunes there, and the transcriptions of the tunes I'm familiar with look really good.

BTW yesterday's post brought a new book called The Cape Breton Fiddle: Making and Maintaining a Tradition, by Glenn Graham. Graham is one of the hot young fiddlers on the Island; he was one of the instructors last Summer at Gaelic College and a show of his at the Red Shoe was one of the best performances we saw; something like 4 hours of great music! He's done a lot of research on the CB fiddle style and this book is an expansion of his masters thesis. As such, the tone is fairly academic but it's still a nice survey of the fiddle tradition and how it has changed over the years. It comes with a CD on which Glenn demonstrates various fiddle techniques and includes tracks from a bunch of fiddlers. Back to the original topic of the thread, there's one track from Mary MacDonald which includes some variations on Tullochgorum! -Steve

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Thanks fellas...those are some terrific links.

This thread has been wonderful for giving me some pointers on good

collections of music to procure, as well as great background on

alot of the songs and collections. I'll get to make my

first tunebook purchase as soon as I get to San Antonio (I'll be

TDY there for 4 months, in the middle of a move...)

By the by, Scratchy, I did know that the song was much older than

J.S. Skinner's association.  I just wanted that variation

because I'm such a fan of the way Ashley MacIsaac and Natalie

MacMaster both play it.  The poem that you posted with it was

really neat though!  I may copy and save it as a bit of a

curiosity...

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Since you guys have demonstrated your expertise, now you get to be

peppered with more questions.

If you've heard Ashley MacIsaac's Live at the Savoy CD...

It's possibly the worst labelled CD ever.  Every track is

listed as with a duration of 3:33 (false), and the song title are

sporadically provided.  It is however a brilliant

performance.

Track two is listed as The Boy's Lament for his Dragon/Glencoe

March Medley.  However...

It starts with a lovely little song called The Hills of Lorne.

 The next track is The Boy's Lament, or The 72ds Farewell to

Aberdeen.  After that...?  Somewhere in there is, I

believe, Let's Have a Ceilidh.  Couldn't even tell you the

rest.

Any thoughts from the collected fiddlers here?

"Fine thank you very much" isn't a lot better on the signage.

 For instance, on the Tullochgorum track, it lists

individually, in order, Lord Rothes Strathspey, "Traditional

Strathspey", The Braes of Tullymet, Tullochgorum, Paresis, and on

from there.  However, unless I'm missing something, I only

count two songs prior to Tullochgorum, and I'm pretty certain song

two is The Braes of Tullymet.

Frustrating, when you just want to find these tunes somewhere.

 Learning by ear off of those performances can be difficult.

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I share your pain about learning by ear, but remember that it is a learned skill, the same as reading the dots. The process may seem more painstaking, but in the end you will remember the tune better, plus pick up all the subtle nuances such as the rhythym and grace nots that can make this music sound like music. I tend to, out of laziness, look at the dots for Scottish tunes, and learn by ear for Irish tunes...don't really know why, except there are many more great ITM recordings out there than there are STM.

As for the MacIsaac....can't help ya there...

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Traditionally, "learning by ear" has not been the same thing that

we experience when we put on a cd and attempt to learn a tune 'by

ear'. Instead, it has been much more of a "learn by rote"

experience where the learner not only hears, but also can see the

fingering and strings used as well as the bowing. It is very

difficult to imitate precise bowing off of a cd - especially for a

relative beginner.

These days we have fewer and fewer players who represent a

particular regional style (old school) and more who play a little

Irish, a little Texas Swing, a little Old Time, some Scottish,

maybe some Klezmer.... etc.

Hearing the real McCoy can be a treat if they don't play any

crossover stuff.

Fiddle camps can be be a wonderful experience.

For real Cape Breton fiddling, you might find recordings by Scotty

F. Fitzgerald, Beatons of Mabou, Sandy MacIntyre, and Buddy

McMaster (Natalie's uncle). David Greenburg plays very

authentically but also plays Scottish baroque music very well.

My favorite Natalie McMaster playing is the old fashioned style she

does with simple accompaniments and without  all of  the

pop influence. She is seeped in the tradition and can do it very

well.

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That's a great point, bapiano. Traditionally this is an oral/aural learning tradition in a big sense of community where we did not have the "clutter" of tv, internet, cd's, message boards, etc. It begs the discussion of whether all world music will be just that someday, and there will be no "trad" environment left. In other words, we do not have to live in Scotland or Cape Breton to learn the music (or do we to really "learn"?). We can put on a cd or look at some dots and "learn" while sipping our frappucinos at Starbucks.

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Trying to not take this too far off-topic, but I have a slightly different view on learning by ear. Talking with some older fiddlers, I have found that they weren't actually taught the tunes, bowings, and so on to begin with. As kids, they'd hear the tunes, say at dances or parties, then, after the tunes were firmly in their head, they'd 'woodshed' for quite a while. After they could play the tune, they'd play it to others. If they did ok, then they might learn more directly from other fiddlers.

So, to get my students to develop their ear-learning ability, I start out with tunes such as Happy Birthday (to You), Joy to the World, Mary had a little lamb, Oh Suzanna, Your Cheatin' Heart, whatever -- depends on what that particular student knows. Not neccesarily fiddle tunes, but music that has been internalized, to use a modern word. This is different than memorization as in the classical violin technique. For example, you wouldn't say that you memorized how to sing Happy Birthday, it's simply a tune you know (if in fact you do).

Only after the student has gotten to the point that he or she can get their way around the instrument on tunes they know do we go onto tunes they don't know. There it's a two-step program -- learn the tune, then learn how to play it on your instrument.

I remember trying to learn to play the pennywhistle many years ago. Didn't go far. Then, recently, I have taken to playing a few tunes on the whistle -- still fairly miserable -- but I'm not learning the tunes, just how to play them on the pennywhistle.

So, using CDs to learn the tunes can be different than simply sitting down with the CD. Listen to the piece you want to learn 20 to 1000 times -- make good use of the repeat button -- then try to play it on the fiddle without the CD. After you get the basics of the tune, you can move onto playing with the CD, where you can pick up all sorts of subtleties.

Not to discount workshops in any way -- I remember watching Hanneke Cassel tear into a tune at a workshop and thinking "Oh, that's how they do that'" A real eye-opener after years of audio-only learning.

Still, for those of us in out-of-the-way places, it can be a long time between workshops. Might as well do something, and the better you are at ear-learning, the more you'll get out of the workshp.

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"These days we have fewer and fewer players who represent a particular regional style (old school) and more who play a little Irish, a little Texas Swing, a little Old Time, some Scottish, maybe some Klezmer.... etc."

Here we have the "California Celtic" style; mainly a mish-mash of the various Irish and Scottish styles, with a bit of old-timey or Texas-style thrown in for good measure! I guess that if you're exposed to a bunch of influences, you can't help incorporating them in your playing. Cape Breton fiddling has apparently survived without much outside influence, at least until recently! This may mean that it's closer to the historical Highland fiddle style than what's currently being played in Scotland, but that's debatable; personally I think that innovation creeps in over the years no matter how much you try to stay traditional. At any rate, I agree with you about Natalie. I have most of her CDs and my favorites are her early ones where she was still playing solely in a traditional style: Fit as a Fiddle and A Compilation; and the newer ones where she stays close to tradition: My Roots are Showing, and the recent one she did with Buddy.

I agree that fiddle camps can be great resources, and I would say that nothing beats going to Cape Breton Island, if it's at all possible. It was extremely educational for me to see a number of different CB fiddlers in action, to hear their different interpretatios of standard tunes and get a close look at their bowing, etc. to be able to relate it to the sounds I heard. I enjoyed my fiddle classes at the Gaelic College, and I've also heard good things about the Ceilidh Trails school (now directed by Jerry Holland) and the new Buddy MacMaster School at the Celtic Music Interpretive Center in Judique. It was also an eye-opening experience to see how much the music and dance are integrated into the culture out there; it's an amazing place! -Steve

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So, to get my students to develop their ear-learning ability, I start out with tunes such as Happy Birthday (to You), Joy to the World, Mary had a little lamb, Oh Suzanna, Your Cheatin' Heart, whatever -- depends on what that particular student knows. Not neccesarily fiddle tunes, but music that has been internalized, to use a modern word. This is different than memorization as in the classical violin technique. For example, you wouldn't say that you memorized how to sing Happy Birthday, it's simply a tune you know (if in fact you do).

Suzannaft>

I learned it as ..and was tortured by it as..

Susannah

Best,

Susannah

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Summer before last I taught (piano) at a fiddle camp in Colorado

when Angus Grant Sr. was there (West Highland fiddler) and his pipe

march playing was like nothing else I've ever heard. I myself

am a conglomeration of styles but when I hear something pure and

genuine it thrills me to no end.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Steve,

I'm making good progress on that Sibelius transcript of

Tullochgorum you posted up for me.  It's a terrifically fun

piece.  

On Ashley MacIsaac's Fine Thank You Very Much, he plays East Neuk

of Fife in one of the sets, and it's one of the only other songs on

that album that I believe the Skinner edition is noted as

specifically having different variations on it.  I thought I'd

look into it.

It's not as fun as Tullochgorum, but it can be a nice part of a

medley.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, I've read the entire thread and am getting really interested in Cape Breton and Scottish fiddling. I'm classically trained but interested in expanding my horizons. Thanks for uploading the Scorch file of Tullochgorum. I've also watched the youtube of Buddy MacMaster's 80th birthday, bought Natalie MacMaster's book and CDs and am trying it out. The good thing is that the Scottish music is helping me with my offbeat syncopation. That is something that I never got right, and had difficulty in some of the more modern hymns. I'm afraid my sense of rhythm is strictly Baroque.

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